Rhiannon McGavin, Youth Poet Laureate

Youth Poet Laureate Rhiannon McGavin’s “Art Class” Poem

“I wrote this poem when I was about 15, and I return to it to remind myself of the sincerity and enthusiasm that guided my poems as a teenager.”

In my kindergarten art class, sunlight dripped through finger paint covered windows.
I learned the primaries, red blue yellow, you could make the whole rainbow from just three colors.
you’re older when you tell yourself you only looked at female anatomical models for reference
but this girl made me understand why they say, pretty as a painting.
you can’t touch museum art
we have the same lotion, it smells better on her, it makes me think of macaroons in paris cafes

the color palette I bring from home is so dark but she makes me lean towards romanticism
I can’t draw a straight line anymore but that’s alright, her hair is naturally curly
a boy called her weird yesterday and i wanted to tell her that
I have spent hours practicing shading to recreate the light in her eyes
but it’d be obvious I was staring
you’re not supposed to look at your friends like that

our teacher says Prussian blue was created when a color-maker tried to birth a perfect red
he accidentally added animal blood to his flask, and out burst blue,
in a time when ultramarine paint cost more than gold.
I wanted vermilion like romeo, ruby as sunset flash, lipstick maroon forget me not kisses
I would give blood to my brush for her to blush at me in that shade
I would take cobalt like a new sky, azure as cornflower, schoolgirl skirt navy hiding held
or even yellow sunflower petals, dutch painters whispering she loves me, she loves me, she loves me
our teacher didn’t tell us that the creation of Prussian blue led to the isolation of cyanide
I can’t breathe without coming into poison, it’s apple seeds and seeping through junior high gym floorboards when you watch your best friend dance with boys who aren’t you
I always liked friendship bracelets more than promise rings

my middle school diaries are filled with girls like a pickpocket sketching the hope diamond
I’ve been lining my coat with stolen glances
I don’t have a partner in crime to keep me warm
I know the signs, the teacher’s assistant, a nice junior who comes to school with cherry eyes every time her lab partner gets a new boyfriend (throw over your man)
my history professor and her roommate of 20 years (I say, someone in another time will remember us)
I’ve read the books, the poetry is good but the author’s picture on the back flap is black and white, never watercolor, never wedding album
I want to be five years old again, mixing all the colors until I get the dark brown of her Monet shoulder freckles, and you give a valentine to everyone in class

Rhiannon McGavin is Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles (2016) and a current English major at UCLA. Her first collection of poetry, Branches, was published in 2017 with Penmanship Books. She has performed her original poetry from the Hollywood Bowl to the Library of Congress, and makes creative writing more accessible through her online work.

Rhiannon’s social media contacts are:

Branches by Rhiannon McGavin

Branches can be purchased here: http://penmanshipbooks.com/shop/branches/

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